Major fashion houses expect to be selling faux leather products made from mushrooms next year.
Adidas, Stella McCartney, Lululemon and Kering (Gucci's parent company) have teamed up to invest in a novel material called Mylo, which is grown from mycelium but rivals the look and feel of animal leather.
As part of a newly established business consortium, the brands have each agreed to spend seven-figure sums to help level up the production capabilities of Mylo's inventor, US biotechnology company Bolt Threads. The intention is to create a supply chain for the vegan leather, which would allow it to be manufactured at a commercially viable scale.
According to Bolt Threads, the consortium represents the largest joint development agreement to-date that is aimed at introducing a biomaterial to the mass market. According to Bolt Threads, Mylo can replicate the look and feel of real leather across a range of colours and textures and can be made into everything from shoes to bags and jackets.
After a number of brands and even entire fashion weeks have gone fur-free in recent years, vegan leather could be the next step. Traditional leather is, of course, an animal byproduct which emits greenhouse gases and consumes finite natural resources through the rearing of livestock, but also causes environmental pollution through the tanning and dying process.
In return for their investment, the four brands in the Mylo consortium will have exclusive rights to use Bolt Thread's mycelium-based alternative, with the first products expected to hit shelves in 2021.
The hope is that this initial investment will eventually allow Mylo to be produced at a similar speed and efficiency as other mass-market materials, in order to make it affordable even for smaller companies.